These TV Stars Got Ridiculously Big Paychecks
17th June, 2021
If you think that only big-screen movie stars earn millions, you’re hugely mistaken. You will be surprised to discover how much the TV industry pays. Believe it or not! Each episode can rake in millions of dollars for celebs, especially if the show is a fan favorite. As TV shows are rapidly gaining popularity, we believe that we’ll see more movie stars taking up roles in TV shows. Perhaps you’re already familiar with some of these celebs who have earned millions? But we’re sure you’ll spot a couple of names that you didn’t expect as well. Check this out to find out if your favorite TV actor has made it to the list.
Whether it’s movies or TV shows, Nicole Kidman has displayed her versatility as an artist time and again. Big Little Lies premiered on HBO in 2017 and was initially meant to be a limited series. But the show became a massive hit, and creators decided to release the second season in 2019. The show, based on the novel of the same title by Liane Moriarty, focuses on the lives of a group of women and their relationships, wherein Kidman plays Celeste Wright. Her salary skyrocketed from $350,000 per episode in the first season to more than $1 million per episode in the second season, officially entering the league of highest-paid actresses in the TV industry. Kidman even bagged several awards, including a Golden Globe, for her stint on Big Little Lies. Thanks to the show’s success, Kidman was reportedly paid $10 million upfront for Netflix’s The Prom and a $1 million per-episode salary for her latest HBO miniseries The Undoing.
After enjoying a successful career in Hollywood with some major hits like Legally Blonde, Wild, and Cruel Intentions, it seems Reese Witherspoon is all set to dominate the TV industry with her flair for acting. The talented actor made a whopping $2 million per episode starring alongside Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show! Moreover, she is also an executive producer for Big Little Lies, in which she portrays Madeline Martha Mackenzie. Being one of the leading ladies helped her earn $1 million per episode in the second season. That’s not all! Witherspoon also earned $1.1 million per episode for her role in the 2020 drama miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, which was adapted from the eponymous 2017 novel by Celeste Ng. With so many back-to-back successful roles, Witherspoon is one of the richest actresses in the world right now. Her net worth sits at $240 million, which is a lot more than the total wealth of some of the highest-paid actresses in entire Hollywood.
The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most binge-worthy TV shows of recent times. The story, based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel of the same title, is set in the near dystopian future. Elisabeth Moss plays June Osborne and is also the executive producer of the show. Interestingly, the actress has recently taken up a new role as the director and is said to have directed three episodes of season four. With a salary of $1 million per episode, Moss is now one of the highest-paid actresses in showbiz and has also bagged a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Plus, the show is well-received by audiences around the world and has secured several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Television Series. The fourth season premiered on April 28th, 2021, and the show has already been renewed for a fifth season. We’re so excited to see how the story unfolds! Besides The Handmaid’s Tale, Moss also played protagonists in films and TV series like The Invisible Man, Shirley, and Top of the Lake.
In the ninth season, after Charlie Sheen exited Two and a Half Men, the creators introduced a new character called Walden Schmidt, which was played by Ashton Kutcher. In the show, Walden Schmidt was a billionaire who purchased Charlie Harper’s (Charlie Sheen) property after he died. Kutcher, already a famous Hollywood actor and model, essentially was Sheen’s replacement, but his earnings were nowhere close to what Sheen was collecting per episode. Nevertheless, with a salary of $700,000 per episode, he still is one of the highest-paid TV actors of all time. In fact, he led Forbes’ list of highest-paid TV actors in 2012, with estimated earnings of $24 million in a single year. Two and a Half Men came to an end a few seasons after Kutcher appeared, and the actor hasn’t been seen on screen much, except in the well-known series The Ranch. Besides being an actor, Kutcher is also a founder of the venture capital firm A-Grade Investments. With many smart and successful investment strategies, he has already built a lucrative investing career.
Matt LeBlanc is best known for portraying Joey Tribbiani in FRIENDS. At the peak of the sitcom’s popularity, LeBlanc was making an astounding $1 million per episode. His character was so well-liked that NBC featured a spin-off titled Joey. Although Joey was not as big a hit and ran for only two seasons (46 episodes), LeBlanc is said to have earned anywhere between $500,000 to $750,000 per episode. That explains why he is worth an incredible $80 million today! Along with LeBlanc, Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), David Schwimmer (Ross Geller), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Courteney Cox (Monica Geller), and Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay) also made $1 million per episode for the last two seasons of FRIENDS, making it a TV show with one of the world’s highest-paid casts of the time. Fast forward to 2021, Friends: The Reunion aired on HBO Max on 27th May, and according to a Forbes report, each of the six stars was offered up to $5 million for the reunion special. That’s a lot for under 2-hour worth of work!
When talking about the highest-paid TV actresses, one of the first names that come to most people’s minds is Jennifer Aniston. Many years after FRIENDS, Aniston made a comeback to television in 2019 with The Morning Show. Thanks to her popularity, the actress took home double—a whopping $2 million—for each episode! Aniston also served as the executive producer of the series, which portrayed the lives of the hosts of a morning show and the inner workings of workplace relationships. The second season will probably air soon, and we’re super excited! In between FRIENDS and The Morning Show, Aniston became the face of several ad campaigns and starred in many Hollywood films, including some box office hits like We’re the Millers, Just Go With It, and Marley and Me, which cemented her position as one of the richest actors in the world. In fact, Aniston even secured second place in Forbes’ 2017 list of Highest-Paid (movie) Actresses, with estimated earnings of $25.5 million in a single year.
Jim Parsons’s character as the geeky, annoying, yet lovable Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory has etched in people’s minds forever. The CBS TV show began in 2007 with a niche audience but later garnered worldwide fame, thanks to the casts’ outstanding performance. The show’s popularity also reflected on Parsons’s paycheck, and the actor started earning $1 million per episode! A year before the show came to an end in 2019, Forbes named Parsons the No. 1 Top Paid TV Actor for the fourth year in a row. In 2018 alone, the actor earned a whopping $26.5 million (pretax). With a net worth of around $160 million, Parsons is currently one of the richest TV actors. That hefty bank balance, however, cannot be solely attributed to his The Big Bang Theory career. A few years ago, Parson signed a sensational seven-figure endorsement with the electronic giant Intel. Not to mention, the actor also narrates and produces the ongoing The Big Bang Theory spinoff show, Young Sheldon.
Kaley Cuoco, who played Penny, Sheldon’s polar opposite in The Big Bang Theory, also started making $1 million per episode after a surge in the sitcom’s popularity, becoming one of the highest-paid actresses in the TV industry. But, it wasn’t just Parsons and Cuoco who raked in millions of dollars from the hit CSB sitcom. The other leading actors, Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter), Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz), and Kunal Nayyar (Raj Koothrappali), also earned $1 million per episode. They decided to take a pay cut so that co-stars Mayim Bialik (Amy Fowler) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette Rostenkowski) were paid enough. Now, that’s true friendship! Cuoco is now the protagonist in HBO’s thriller The Flight Attendant, which is based on the eponymous 2018 novel by Chris Bohjalian. How much she made on the new show remains unknown. But, given that The Flight Attendant will be back for round two, we’re sure Cuoco will keep adding millions into her bank account with her outstanding acting skill.
When Game of Thrones first aired in 2011, little did anyone know that it would become one of the most discussed TV shows around the world. Whether you admired the Mother of Dragons, aka Daenerys Targaryen, in the fantasy show or not, the actress who played her, Emilia Clarke, is said to have made millions of dollars in the final season alone! Different reports quote different numbers, but the majority say that Clarke was offered $1.2 million per episode in the final season of the hit HBO drama series, which makes her one of the highest-paid TV actresses. Well, regardless of how much she earned, there’s no denying that Clarke’s performance throughout the show was exceptional. Not to mention, she received offers for several movies as Game of Thrones was nearing its end, including Solo: A Star Wars Story, Above Suspicion, and Last Christmas. Honestly, we can’t get enough of Clarke and are hoping to see her in more leading roles in the near future.
Two and a Half Man is the funniest TV show of all time, thanks to Sheen’s hedonistic and sarcastic character Charlie Harper. Having starred in Hollywood blockbusters like Platoon, Hot Shots!, and Wall Street, Sheen was already a big movie star before he landed a role on the CBS sitcom. It was rumored that he was very well paid right from the start of the show, and some claim that his salary was around $350,000 per episode for the first few seasons. From there, Sheen went on to become the highest-paid male actor on television at the time, raking in $1.8 million per episode for his last season. Unfortunately, he was fired from the show in 2011 after he made derogatory remarks about the show and its creator, producer Chuck Lorre. The actor was said to have been worth around $150 million at one time, but since he continued to live life king-size even after losing work, his net worth is only 10 million today — a meager amount by celebrity standards.
This list would be incomplete without the mention of actor, comedian Kelsey Grammer. He became the highest-paid star in television history in 2001 for his role of Frasier Crane, the central character in Frasier. Frasier was a spin-off of the 1982 series Cheers, in which Grammar appeared as Frasier Crane in season three. His acting was phenomenal and character well-liked, which prompted show creators to bring the character to prominence, and eventually a spin-off. Unlike most spin-offs, Frasier was a big hit right from the beginning and as good as its predecessor, if not better. So, in 2001, Grammer was in a position to negotiate a seemingly impossible deal to earn $1.6 million per episode! That’s around $38 million per season! The series ran for nine years from 1993 to 2005, earning a remarkable 107 Emmy nominations and winning a notable 37 Emmy Awards over the years. Of late, Grammar spends more time acting in theatre productions. He voices Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons and will be seen in the upcoming film The God Committee.
Helen Hunt, Paul Reiser’s co-star in Mad About You who played Jamie Stemple Buchman, was also paid $1 million per episode for the final season. In fact, it’s believed that the duo got the raise only because of Hunt. NBC agreed to pay said amount, owing to Hunt’s popularity in Hollywood. The fact that she recently won an Oscar for her work in As Good As It Gets helped. Interestingly, Hunt is the first female actress to successfully negotiate a deal of $1 million per episode in the television industry. Prior to that, multiple reports said that both leading stars were earning only $250,000 per episode. That means they got a ridiculous raise of $750,000! The Mad About You reboot also featured Hunt, and she was offered as much as Reiser — $350,000 per episode. Hunt is also known for her roles in several celebrated movies like Twisters, What Women Want, Cast Away, and Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
Ellen Pompeo has been playing Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy ever since its debut in 2005. The ongoing TV show has already enjoyed a super successful run for seventeen seasons, and Pompeo’s pay has seen steady growth over the years. The actress signed a deal in 2017 that paid her $575,000 per episode (That’s around $20 million per season!) and also made her a co-producer. Also, it seems that Pompeo received at least $1 million as a signing bonus. Last year, she even nabbed a People's Choice Award for Favorite Female TV Star. As of 2021, it’s been 16 years since the show began, and fans are wondering how long it will continue. Interestingly, in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Grey’s Anatomy’s creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes said that the show would go on as long as Pompeo is willing to do it. Well, thanks to the single TV series, the actress has accumulated around $80 million in her bank account, and it seems the sky's the limit for her.
When talking about Game of Thrones, it’s impossible not to mention Jon Snow, who was played by Kit Harington, one of the fan-favorite characters. Reports say that Harington was offered as much as Emilia Clarke, which is $1.2 million per episode for the final season. In fact, even the other three leading actors, Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), earned the same amount. Harington was fairly unknown before Game of Thrones, so his current net worth of $14 million can be mainly attributed to the show. However, during the show, Harington scored a few big-screen roles with films like Testament of Youth, Seventh Son, and The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. The actor recently became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be seen in the upcoming film The Eternals alongside Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Kumail Nanjiani. Well, Harington sure seems to be on the way to becoming one of the highest-paid actors on the big screen too.
It’s no secret that Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has been named the highest-paid male actor by Forbes more than once in the past decade. Out of the staggering $87.5 million he made in 2020, a whopping $23.5 million is attributed to just one project, the upcoming Netflix original Red Notice, where he plays an art-thief chasing Interpol agent. However, not many people know that the actor has pulled in millions of dollars per season for his role in the comedy TV series Ballers. In the show, the Rock played the protagonist of the story, Spencer Strasmore, an ex-NFL player-turned-financial advisor. The actor earned about $650,000 per episode! Although it’s much less than what Jennifer Aniston, Jerry Seinfeld, and many others made from TV, it’s still a handsome amount. Ballers ran for a good five seasons before coming to end in 2019. Over the years, Johnson has also collected millions of dollars from the Fast & Furious franchise, roles in several successful films, and numerous brand endorsements. No wonder the actor is currently worth an outstanding $400 million at a relatively young age.